KAIDAN SAGA YASHIKI (1953)
aka Ghost of Saga Mansion
Article 4236 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Ryohei Arai
Featuring Takako Irie, Yoshitaro Bando, Kikue Mouri
What it is: The Ghost Cat Begins
When her son is killed as part of a conspiracy, and old woman commits suicide, giving rise to a vengeful ghost-cat.
So many ghost-cat movies were made in Japan during the fifties that there must be a reason for its popularity. I think one of the reasons may be this particular movie; it was (if I have my information correct) the first of the ghost-cat movies, and based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s easily the best. Given that my copy is once again in Japanese without subtitles, I do have problems following the story line, but once the story progresses far enough so that we can get some vengeful ghost-cat action, the movie takes off; it is genuinely eerie. The movie does a better job of incorporating the cat-like nature of the ghost into the proceedings, there are some creepy transformation sequences, and the scene here where the ghost-cat forces one of its victims to undergo a series of tumbling exercises (which usually comes off as strange but silly) is quite unsettling; I could see this time that we were dealing with tendency of a cat to play with its victims. I’ve begun to realize now how the other movies I’ve seen are essentially retreads of this one, lacking the atmosphere that makes this one work. It’s always nice to see a movie that helps you to put others you’ve seen into context.